Sampling molecular conformations and dynamics in a multi-user virtual reality framework

Michael O Connor, Helen M. Deeks, Edward Dawn, Oussama Metatla, Anne Roudaut, Matthew Sutton, Becca Rose Glowacki, Rebecca Sage, Philip Tew, Mark Wonnacott, Phil Bates, Adrian J. Mulholland, David R. Glowacki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

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We describe a framework for interactive molecular dynamics in a multiuser virtual reality environment, combining rigorous cloud-mounted physical atomistic simulation with commodity virtual reality hardware, which we have made accessible to readers (see It allows users to visualize and sample, with atomic-level precision, the structures and dynamics of complex molecular structures 'on the fly', and to interact with other users in the same virtual environment. A series of controlled studies, wherein participants were tasked with a range of molecular manipulation goals (threading methane through a nanotube, changing helical screw-sense, and tying a protein knot), quantitatively demonstrate that users within the interactive VR environment can complete sophisticated molecular modelling tasks more quickly than they can using conventional interfaces, especially for molecular pathways and structural transitions whose conformational choreographies are intrinsically 3d. This framework should accelerate progress in nanoscale molecular engineering areas such as drug development, synthetic biology, and catalyst design. More broadly, our findings highlight VR's potential in scientific domains where 3d dynamics matter, spanning research and education.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

5 pages, 3 figures, 19 pages Supporting Info

Structured keywords

  • Bristol BioDesign Institute


  • physics.chem-ph
  • cs.HC
  • physics.ed-ph
  • Synthetic Biology


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